By Christopher Powers
Reports from early in the week at Quail Hollow were that Rory McIlroy was doing some serious tinkering on the range with his driver, an odd move considering he’s been the best driver on the PGA Tour this season. Whatever he was working on didn’t really help on Thursday, as McIlroy hit just six of 14 fairways and ranked outside the top 50 in strokes-gained/off-the-tee.
McIlroy’s approach game, however, was stellar, particularly on the back nine, where he carded a five-under 31 to surge into the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship. At the end of round one he ranks first in the field in strokes-gained/approach the green as well as total strokes-gained. His five-under 66 is his best round since Friday at the Players Championship.
Matching McIlroy’s 66 was Joel Dahmen, who birdied two of his final four holes to join the Northern Irishman at the top of the leader board.
Four players are one back of McIlroy and Dahmen, including Ryder Cup adversary Patrick Reed, who fired a bogey-free 67, his lowest round since a third-round 64 at the WGC-Mexico in March.
Jason Day, the defending champion, is two off the lead following his first-round 68. Brian Harman, Keith Mitchell and Jason Dufner are among those tied with Day at three under. Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia posted two-under 69s and sit three back.